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Child advocacy centers across WV seeing an increase in young victims of abuse

The Hoops Family Child Advocacy Center at Cabell-Huntington Hospital opened in September. (WCHS/WVAH)

When it comes to abuse of children, West Virginia Child Advocacy Centers are seeing more than an 11% increase in victims of abuse, and even more in Cabell County.

Since the Hoops Family Child Advocacy Center opened in September, 41 victims of abuse have gone through the doors seeking treatment for physical and mental abuse, but the majority of children have been sexually abused.

"We had compared ourself to a like county and they had seen maybe 130 cases their first year, and if we stay on track like this we'll see over 200," said Melanie Akers, Director of Hoops Family Childrens Hospital. She says the victims range in age from 2 years old to 17. "Anytime families are under increased stress, statistics will show you there's an increased rate of all kinds of abuse," said Akers.

"Do we cry? We cry but I'm not going to cry with the child," said Michele McMaster, a nurse with the Hoops Family Child Advocacy Center. She says the reason she doesn't cry with the child is because the child needs someone who is strong as they talk about the alleged abuse. Regarding the victims so far at the child advocacy center, 33 % of the alleged offenders were the child's parent and 71 % were someone the child knows.

"It's not always the stranger that's going to assault your child. It is the people they feel comfortable with," said McMaster. She has this advice for parents. "Open lines of communication with your child. That is the most important thing. Make them feel comfortable that they can talk with you regardless of who it is," said McMaster.

She says instill in your child that abuse is never right, no matter who is doing it.

For more information and statistics from child advocacy centers across the state, visit http://wvcan.org/media/

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